James Finlay, one of the largest flower growing company in Kenya has announced the closure of two of its flower farms in Kericho citing high labour costs and industrial strikes.
As a result, some 2,000 workers are staring at job loss.
In a statement dated April 25, the firm – which is well known for tea production and export – said it regrets the move arguing that the staff expenses have made their Kericho farms uneconomical and uncompetitive.
“The closure of both Chemirei and Tarakwet will take place over a two and a half year period starting May 2018 to end of December 2020,” read a statement signed by Finlays general manager Steve Scott.
“It has been an extremely difficult decision but labour costs in Kericho are significantly higher than other locations in flower industry in Kenya.”
The announcement comes about six months after the agricultural multinational incurred losses running into millions of shillings following a workers’ strike that had brought its tea processing business to a halt and led to the destruction of its property.
The firm, with a rich heritage in tea business originated in Glasgow in 1750 as a trader and manufacturer of cotton and started growing tea in 1920s in Kericho.
The firm indicated that it will however continue to expand operations at Lemotit farm in Londiani as a business supplying flowers to the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world.
“The company has deliberately chosen a phased closure of the Kericho operations in order to minimize the impact on employees and their families. James Finlay is committed to helping employee find other job opportunities where practicable,” read the statement.
In the last quarter of 2017, the tea firms recorded massive losses as 40,000 employees under Kenya Agricultural and Plantation Workers’ Union (KAPWU) in Kericho, Bomet and Nandi downed their tools.
The move cost members of the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) – including James Finlay, George Williamson, Kaisugu, Tea Research Institute millions in revenue as it severely paralysed operations including picking and processing of green leaf.
Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) Secretary General, Francis Atwoli, at the time told the workers whose union is under Cotu to keep off the farms until they get a good deal under the Common Bargaining Agreement.